Lecture 28: Why be Moral? Pt. II

Lecture 28: Why be Moral? Pt. II
1. to distinguish two categories of metaethical theories: cognitivist and noncognitivist
2. to describe the function of moral theory
3. to sketch an overview of different moral
4. to clarify what ethical egoism is
5. to explore Socrates’ response to Glaucon’s
ethical egoist position
Glaucon’s Reply to the Two Questions
 Should one abide by a moral code of conduct
that requires the cooperation of all?
1. Who counts?
The maxim by which Glaucon believes one should
live might be articulated as the following:
Each agent ought to follow those policies which, relative to
the alternatives, would maximize his/her gains and
minimize his/her losses.
 one should act according to one’s rational selfinterest and promote one’s own well-being for its
own sake
 ethical egoist
2. What counts?
For Glaucon, well-being consists in having: riches,
political power, high status, and pleasure.
Rational self interest + scarcity of goods 
Competition = deceit/violence/threat of violence
+ superior position + perception of moral
Therefore, Glaucon concludes that:
 It is in the rational self-interest of most
people to avoid the use of deceit, violence or
coercion in competing for what they want, so
they should abide by a moral code of restraint
and cooperation.
 Those few superior individuals who can
compete successfully without retaliation or
personal risk should disregard the
prohibitions of the moral code and should
compete for the most desirable goods.
N.B., success here is defined in terms of achieving
one’s rational self-interest and maintaining the
kind of public image which will protect them from
retaliation, i.e., the veneer of justice and moral
Essential features of ethical egoism:
1. My well-being should be promoted for its
own sake.
2. I should act to maximize my well-being.
3. Right action is evaluated in terms of the
extent to which my well-being is
Meta-ethical theories
Meta-theories of Ethics
Non-cognitivism: holds that moral judgments are not
actually statements of moral knowledge.
 Such claims cannot be judged true or false.
 “I can’t be disputed because this is just how I feel.”
Cognitivism: holds that moral judgments are statements
of moral knowledge that can be judged true or false on
the basis of reasons.
 Objectivist: holds that there are objective moral
standards to which we can appeal in making
moral judgments.
 Cognitive relativist: rejects that there are any
objective moral standards “I can’t be disputed
because this is my truth.”
moral theory = a coherent conceptual framework for
justifying moral judgments of right and good conduct
and character, or put another way
Moral codes and moral theories in general must
answer two key questions:
1. Who counts and for how much?
2. What counts and for how much?
Some – “elitism”
I – “egoist”
Who counts
for one?
Nobody – “nihilism”
Why bother?
v1. “modified
Everybody but me
The value of moral reflection and moral theory:
- clarifies what is at stake
- provides recommendations for action
- explains why an action is morally justified
- decreases the chances of moral error or immoral
- ensures good moral performance
- resolve disagreements
- creates openings for communication and
conflict resolution
- rebuilds severed community
- builds moral character
- legitimizes practice by being accountable for
- provides reassurance that what one is doing is
Moral theory
Moral action
Overview of ethical theories:
Ethical Theories
Ethical egoist
Kantian ethics
Ross’ prima facie principles
Rawls’ Theory of Justice
1. Teleological theories
 Any theory which maintains that the value of an
action, or of a kind of action, is determined solely by
the value of its consequences, hence also called
consequentialist theories
2. Deontological theories
 any theory which maintains that some actions are
intrinsically valuable or good not as a function of their
3. Virtue theory
 theory that emphasize not just moral conduct but
moral character, hence the motivational structure of
moral actions
4. Feminist theories
 a range of theoretical positions that derive from the
political perspective of feminism
Glaucon’s ethical egoism
 cognitivist
 objectivist
 consequentialist (rule)
 egoistic
cf. Utilitarianism: all of these AND egalitarian
Act vs. rule consequentialist theories
a) Act consequentialist
 any theory which maintains that the value of
any particular act is determined by the values of its
b) Rule consequentialist
 these theories maintain that actions are justified
to the extent that they fall under a justified rule or
 justified rules or policies are those which as a
rule result in the best net consequences
Socrates’ reply to Glaucon
Socrates and Glaucon agree on what a moral code is
intended to do:
1. direct individuals to act in ways which respect
and promote the interests (good) of others
within their community
2. elaborates a conception of a good life for
individual members of the community and
directs community members to live in
conformity with this conception
3. elaborates a conception of good qualities of
personality, of what counts as a good moral
Acting according to “moral” code vs.
Acting according to rational self interest
Moral rectitude and the analogy to the State
Any state requires that its members perform the
following tasks:
1. basic human physical needs
2. internal and external security
3. governance
There are three classes of citizens:
1. artisans/craftsmen/businessmen
 temperance, self-control
2. auxiliaries (professional military)
 courage
3. guardians (those who are proficient in
 wisdom
Like a political community, each individual human
being must execute three functions:
1. basic physical needs
2. self-defense
3. rational action
 most developed
rational element rules
 defensive/aggressive
forces subordinated to
and fully developed for
effective action by fully
developed Rational
 subordinated to rules
and policies of fully
developed rational
element, enforced by
the fully developed and
rationally controlled
Spirited element
Rational element
Spirited element
Appetitive element
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